Regarding the news that’s come out in the last few days, such as Ed Struzik’s piece at Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ blog ‘Yale Environment 360′, Will Bold Steps Be Needed to Save Beleaguered Polar Bears?, although it isn’t made entirely clear in the articles we’ve seen, researchers will not be the ones suggesting when or if we feed polar bears. That point is made more clear in Dr. Andrew Derocher’s paper entitled “Rapid ecosystem change and polar bear conservation” that will be widely available in the next edition of Society for Conservation Biology’s Conservation Letters.
Here’s some background.
During July, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario at the International Bear Association conference, Frontiers North was in the room when this discussion first started. A wildlife manager stated to polar bear researchers in attendance (we’re paraphrasing here), “It’s great that we’ve got a bunch of research suggesting that reduction of sea ice will negatively affect wild polar bear populations … but now what?”.
In other words, the wildlife manager was highlighting the fact that, if there was a year, or successive years, where polar bear populations experienced negative growth, that that wildlife manager was going to need to know what forward action or actions, if any, to present to their superiors.
Spending as much time as we do with our guests in the most dense polar bear aggregation in the world, over the years we’ve definitely had guests come up with some wild ideas to ’save the bears’, such as parachute dropping chicken for polar bears to eat (that from the proprietor of a large international chicken producer) all the way to setting up managed polar bear feeding stations along the Hudson Bay coast, similar to the staged whale carcasses near Kaktovik, Alaska. Interestingly, prior to that meeting in Ottawa, a ‘forward action’ situation had never been seriously considered by researchers or wildlife managers.
What was bantered about over the course of those couple days at the IBA conference was that in a situation where polar bear populations did in-fact crash, politicians would become involved in the decision making process. And at that point it would be in the best interest of stakeholders if potential forward actions had at-least been considered. So that’s what Dr. Derocher’s paper is all about. Basically saying, lets start the discussion.
The main point is that it there is no current plan to execute any of these tactics and in the event of a polar bear population crash it is unlikely researchers would make the decision to do one thing or another, that would be the role of wildlife managers and politicians.